Sunday, July 20, 2008

Review - The Wackness

Set in the summer of 1994 in New York City, a loaner high school graduate, Luke Shapiro, sells pot for the summer while waiting for his first semester of college. Luke slangs herb through a front of an ice-cream kart within NY city and trades it to his psychologist for therapy, who just happens to be the step-father of a girl he really desires.

The Wackness is a great movie that tells a simple story of freindship between two unlikely friends. It is filled loads of heart, great laughs, stimulating introspectives, and a unbelievable soundtrack based in the hip-hop of 1994! Directed by Jonathan Levine and starring Josh Peck (Mean Creek) as Luke Shapiro, Ben Kingsley as his shrink Dr. Jeff Squires, and Olivia Thirlby (Juno and Snow Angels) as the teenage girl Luke is crushing on Stephanie, The Wackness delivers on every level and sucks the viewer in from the first frame until it blows you out in the final shot!

Josh Peck breaks away from his Nickelodeon role on 'Drake & Josh' and delivers an unexpected and stunning performance in The Wackness. Peck does an extremely good job of holding the viewers attention and keeping them completely invested in his character for the entire film. Throughout the film, Peck does an immpecable job of tying the viewer into feeling his conflict. When Luke is crushing on Stephanie, the viewer remembers back to their first love and how awkward at times it could be. Peck nails all of the feelings and emotions that we can go through in our late-teen years, and simply delivers a eye-opening performance, as one of hollywood's young and up-coming actors. His screen time with Ben Kingsley is highly energized, with hypnotizing dialogue, and played perfectly to match Kinsley's polished performance. Josh Peck proved most importantly, that he can carry a film and keep the viewer completely invested. His performance is definately not one that will be easily forgetable and should land him some more intriguing and challenging roles.

Ben Kingsley also delivers a dynamic performance that we have come to expect from him. The role, is anything but the same old shit, Kingsley is riveting throughout and quite comical in most of his screen time. His character is key to Shaprio's development throughout the Wackness, and he perfectly plays the shrink, who loves to smoke pot amoung other drugs. The introspect in Dr. Squires character is quite compelling and really helps to add to the overall heart of the film. The relationship that Dr. Squires and Luke develop isn't your typical doctor patient relationship and really proves to what ultimately makes this film so good. (Their relationship slightly reminded me of The Odd Couple)

The soundtrack for The Wackness is absolutely absorbing! Each song really sets the mood of the scenes and does a flawless job of taking the viewer back to 94'. Songs from Notorious B.I.G., KRS-One, A Tribe Called Quest, Souls of Mischief, Nas, Biz Markie, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince really did a phenominal job allowing the viewer to become completely enriched in the music and the film. It is rare that a soundtrack has so much impact like, The Wackness, it really does help to set the tone and develop Luke's character in the film. I particularly loved all the scenes with Luke throwing on his headphones or turning up his ghetto-box. "So what do we do...Just watch!" Just enjoyable music in a really enjoyable film.

The Wackness really takes the viewer back to 1994, not with just the soundtrack, but the setting as well. Remembering the days when a girl gave you her home phone number, and you may have to interact with her mother or father when you called, was always frightening. Now days every teen has a cell phone and parents have muchless ability to screen their children's calls. Making it much easier to get ahold of a girl that you liked. Seeing Luke pull out his pager, was a definate throwback to the 90's also! Rembering the days of paging, "911" to a friend or to meet up with a connect, brought back tons of old memories. The Wackness also does a good job of using references from the 90's and a visual style that matched the era. The Wackness for being so simple, really exceled at perfection.

Finally, The Wackness is a great dramedy that uses amazing music, the awkwardness of our teenage years, and hiliarious and intriguing dialogue to tell a compelling story of a loaner teen, his first love, and a unique friendship he develops over the summer of 1994. I loved The Wackness all around, it was a flawless movie and really hit home with its simple, yet enriching story. Josh Peck gave a stand-out performance and has earned all the acclaim from Sundance earlier this year and this month at the LA Film Festival. If you have a chance see The Wackness, "On tha Real!"